Review: Magi Episode 11, Falling Short where Code Geass and Kuroko no Basuke Succeeds.

Highlight of the day.

Before I get down towards proper analysis, may I just say that I’m completely on the Alibaba X Morgiana (let me know what’s the name of this ship cause I’m ready to set sail) bandwagon here; they are such an adorable couple and probably one of the few heterosexual pairings that I actually actively support. XD What I find particularly lacking however, is the lack of quality interaction between the two. Yes, Magi is action-packed, has loads of side characters and a complex sociological theme on slavery and capitalism but it’s no excuse. Other animes such as Pandora Hearts, Code Geass (and dare I say it, Sword Art Online) had managed to juggle plot and character interaction in a wholesome, organic manner in which Magi can definitely learn from.

Moving on, I personally thought that the conflict between Aladdin (well, Ugo mainly) and Judal were stretched for too long, ranging one and a half episodes. Yes, the graphics are pretty, yes the people involved are powerful but this is what I find particularly distasteful about this show. Magi sets itself up discussing very powerful social themes on governance, social inequality, slavery and the problems that come with capitalism and it presents these themes in a mature, complex manner that I rarely see anime do. It argues that any form of chivalrous thievery ala Robin-Hood style is bound to fail because it’s the social system at hand which perpetuates social inequality; which explains why Alibaba’s Fog Troupe team is bound to fail. (For more discussion, click here) It also argues that the reason why the social inequality isn’t because there are corrupt individuals at the top. It’s because the capitalist system is corrupt, in the sense that it encourages individuals to be corrupt, by providing a social background where privileged individuals are conditioned to believe that their system of governance is fair and just (or maybe they are conditioned not to care) when it is not.

And this is where Magi is starting to get disappointing because it preaches that the way out of such corrupt systems is to depend on “people with magical powers”, where the individuals with the greatest firepower gets to rule. In a way, it’s very shounenesque. The amount of battle scenes in which the commoners are swept aside while a selected magical few fight it out to determine the fate of many is a simplistic way to resolve such a complex social dilemma. In the fight betwen Judal and Ugo, the political discussion between Alibaba and Abhmad, the common man is neglected, tossed away, faceless. In better executed anime such as Code Geass for instance, even though Lelouch has the imba magical ability to force people to obey his orders, his success and failures are usually dependent on normal individuals who managed to outwit him with nothing but lots of cunning and calculation. Instead of defeating antagonists (Fog Troupe, Judal etc) using human intelligence or traps, the anime resorts towards muscle power and brute strength to win the battle. Similarly in Kuroko no Basuke, even though Kuroko and Kagami have “miraculous” basketball abilities, ALL of the basketball team members despite having comparative rudimentary skills have a distinctive characteristic that shines through and aids the team to victory. It’s not a “one-man” show where a character or a few characters dominate the entire series because they have superhuman capabilities; it’s about glorifying the humanness, that being human, or being ordinary in its own way, we can become superhumans in our own rights.

Because in KnB, people without coloured hair matters too.

Yes you.

P.S: The singular form for “magi” is “magus”. One magus. 3 magi wandering in the desert. Slight grammatical peeve when watching the anime.

Magi Episode 7 – What Would Salvoj Zizek Say?

Well hello there.

Will be starting my review of Magi from Episode 7 onwards since I’ve started blogging after watching 6 episodes of Magi so far. Since I have not read the manga, the only spoilers you’ll be receiving is the contents of this episode.

Basically I was particularly concerned about how the idea of class and struggles are depicted in the episode. It’s a proverbial story/criticism on capitalism: the rich (bourgeoisie) monopolises all the resources while the poor (proleteriat) suffers in the most desolate conditions unfavourable even for basic survival. The lower class then strikes back at the ruling powers that oppressed them, a revolution is started and a communist, classless society is formed. According to classic Marxian thought, that is the inevitable conclusion of every single capitalist society.

Let them have chicken drumsticks!

However, what we’re having within Balbadd is not a classic revolution. Rather, a group of vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to steal from the rich and redistribute to the poor; kinda like an Arabian Robin Hood with genie powers. This vigilante movement (if this happened in the States, we would call it terrorism) have attained immerse support from the subjugated classes and they are seen as an symbol of liberation for bringing hope to a caste of people who were oppressed and neglected too far and too long by the ruling rich.

What is lovely about this anime is that it does not bother making simplistic sociological resolutions as such. In an almost Zizekian twist, Ahbmad points out that:

Looks a little bit like Zizek too…

Which doesn’t really improve the situation does it? As what Zizek would argue, the problem here isn’t the fact that the people in power are corrupt; it is the system which encourages people to be corrupt in the first place. Stealing from the rich or dethroning the powerful isn’t going to helpful if there is a check-and-balance system in place to allow the powerful to recuperate their losses such as taxes, in this case. Fundamentally, there is something intrinsically wrong with the majority of wealth belonging to the top 1 percent of the population while the 99 percent starve to death, working in order to privilege the rich. This is where much of the emotional ethos of Magi is derived of, because there is something about the labour exploitation and social injustice that appeals to everyone; whether this sociological dilemma can be resolved in a tasteful manner by the mangaka Ōtaka Shinobu remains to be seen.

And of course, what is another plus point of this episode is that you already see glimpses on how the rich are not portrayed simplistic as helpless, fat bumbling fools who can only whine about being robbed. There were definitely certain clues within the episode that revealed that there’s some scheme that is brewing underneath all the apparent helplessness. Perhaps the presence of the Fog Troupe also served to their advantage in a particular insidious manner, in which case such vigilante actions did nothing put to perpetuate and reinforce capitalist social structures that oppresses them in the first place.

On a less academic note, I’m greatly intrigued to know Alibaba’s role in all of this. The suspense build-up was artful, the plot direction and pacing was impeccable and the character cast (Sinbad and his white-haired boyfriend in particular) has been nothing but charming. My favourite moment has to be when Morgiana got tired of Sinbad’s sexist bullshit and actually called him out on it, something we don’t really see very often in anime. I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode to see a more angst-ridden Alibaba and why he had reached that particular state of being (probably because he’s pissed off at being cut off from like what, 3 episodes? I know I would be. XD)